Ancoats legend Robert Blake dies aged 93
15 May 2012
The death has taken place of NUJ life member Robert Blake, MBE, BEM at the age of 93. Rober was former news editor and news manager of the Daily Express in Great Ancoats Street, Manchester. He was hired by Arthur Christiansen when the paper's legendary editor saw a piece that was reprinted by the Express that Bob had written for the wartime forces' magazine Soldier .
Robert Blake MBE BEM was born May 29, 1918, in Kent and attended Kings School, Canterbury. As a teenager he was a champion swimmer, and just missed becoming a member of the Olympic team.
He volunteered for the army before the outbreak of the Second World War, and joined 7th Armoured Division, seeing action as a tank gunner in the Western Desert. He fought at the battle of El Alamein against Rommel's troops. The battle saw him spend three days and nights under intense bombing and artillery fire from the German army fighting to reach Cairo and the Suez Canal.
He wrote a daily newspaper, based on BBC reports, on a troop ship to keep up the morale of soldiers and crew. He worked briefly in 1943 on the Iraq Times, a four-page newsletter.
On leave from Iraq in 1943, he met Dorothy and they married the following year. They had two sons, both of whom followed him into journalism.
Bob was hired as a staff reporter on the Daily Express after writing articles for Soldier magazine. Sent to greet Allied prisoners of war returning from the prison camps of the Far East, he saw the walking skeletons disembarking and wrote about it 'as it was'. After the piece was reprinted in the Daily Express and seen by Arthur Christiansen, Bob was offered a reporting job.
"But I cannot do shorthand," Bob admitted. "I want a writer, not a shorthand mechanic" was the reply and he was posted to the Manchester office, later becoming Northern News Editor. Described as a 'character' and an 'Ancoats legend' a book of his ironic, funny and wise sayings "Best of Blake" was published by staff when he retired after more than 30 years service.
He often recalled his lonely nights on the dog watch at Ancoats . But, with a grin, he once told his family "Journalism is the best paid unskilled work you can get". Robert Blake was awarded the MBE for services to journalism.
In retirement, he loved fly fishing and, in his more agile years, toured the coast of Britain in a campervan. Sadly, Dorothy died, aged 96, in February 2012. Bob Blake is survived by two sons, four granddaughters and five great grand children.